Anyone with an iPhone knows there is an app for pretty much anything you could possibly need - and a lot of things you don't. There is a whole category of apps that promise to be your own personal trainer in your pocket. I put some of the free ones to the test.
Jillian Michaels: Slim-Down Solution
The trainer from The Biggest Loser seems to be everywhere, and now she's on your iPhone too. With tips, individual strength-training exercises and full circuit workouts, this is a good addition to your exercise regime. The tips are a bit obvious but serve as a reminder and motivator if you are flagging. The weights exercises are the high point of this app for me, especially the "calorie-burning combo lifting" category. They are more involved than just a standard bench press or bicep curl, so keep your interest - and they do target the muscle groups they say they are going to. The circuit workouts are good but most require a treadmill, and almost all the exercises use weights. If you don't feel like getting an overly perky and generally irrelevant email from Jillian every morning, give the option to sign up to "receive regular updates" a miss.
This is my pick of the bunch. It's really precise and definitely works, provided you have the determination to stick with it. It is a really detailed workout and food log that calculates how many calories you are consuming, versus how many you are burning off. When you start, it asks for your current weight, goal weight, date of birth, type of lifestyle (sedentary, active) and diet (low-carb, low-fat). That is what sets it apart from other workout/food diaries on the iPhone - it's really targeted to your individual regime. It also includes training plans to give you workout options, rather than just recording what you were already doing, as most of the other apps do. It has a good index of food preloaded so you just need to look up what you have eaten, rather than adding in all the nutritional information. The only drawback I can see with this app is that it can be tedious to record every slice of toast and minute of walking throughout the day.
iMap My Run
A reasonably straightforward app that is great for runners, iMap My Run tracks where you run, the distance and the time in which you do it. There's an option of voice feedback and after each run you can post your results on Facebook and Twitter, so you can compare how you are going with what your friends are doing. The main problem I found with this app was that it wasn't always completely reliable in tracking me. In most places in Auckland it was fine but when I tried to go for a run through Warkworth, it got lost.
Daily Ab Workout
An addition to your existing regime, rather than a new programme, this app guides you through an intensive ab workout. It works all your abdominal muscles with various types of crunches. Most of the 10 exercises were familiar to me, although a couple were new variations on the theme, and seemed to hit muscles that I hadn't felt being targeted before. You have the option to do each exercise for 30 seconds, 45 seconds or 60 seconds, and the app counts the time down for you.
The main drawback with this app is that there is only the one workout, and it could get boring pretty quickly. I definitely felt the burn, though, and struggled to get through it properly on my first time. There is more advertising on this app than I noticed on the others. I have been doing this alongside the Daily Butt Workout, to blast two problem areas.
This is one of my favourite apps. Even the beginner workout, which comes programmed into the app, is really good - it guides you through lots of basic positions in a dynamic programme that stretches and loosens all the main muscle groups. I felt really energised after my first workout, which took me through asanas like the mountain pose, downwards and upwards dog and lots of lunging and core-strengthening. There are poses to suit everyone from the beginner to the "guru" and you can create your own programmes according to your specific needs. A voice guide explains every position but a written description is also really helpful. It includes a calendar to help you track your training.
* All apps available under the iPhone App Store's "healthcare and fitness category".